Most Bahamian students don’t know a soul when they first set foot on a university campus abroad. Payton Roberts counted herself lucky to know six – even though she had yet to meet her fellow Lewis Foundation scholars in person.
“I feel like it’s a built-in friendship and understanding. We all left The Bahamas to attend the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando,” said the 20-year-old transfer student from the University of The Bahamas.
“In our group chat we talk about a lot of things or ask each other questions. I’m very glad to have that. I feel less alone in the process.”
The pandemic took its toll on college scholarships and family finances, leaving many to postpone or outright abandon dreams of pursuing tertiary education away from home.
“My dream of continuing my studies abroad did not seem achievable without financial help. Things were challenging. My parents were burdened with financially supporting both my brother and I who are enrolled in college,” recalled the 2018 graduate of Kingsway Academy who has always dreamt of starting a business.
Payton’s online search for scholarship opportunities led her to the virtual doorsteps of the Lewis Foundation. For someone who longed to experience other cultures and connect with international industry leaders, the chance to snag a full scholarship seemed too good to be true.
“An opportunity to complete my studies without financial distraction and at a highly regarded institution such as UCF, will help me to better achieve my future plan of establishing a business with a global reach…one that could help our economy and help our nation to grow,” said the business administration major.
Her dream of making The Bahamas a better place is one shared by Sheddena Bethel, a 2018 graduate of St John’s College who recently completed an Associate Degree in business from Orlando’s Valencia College and is now attending UCF.
“I knew that the degree I saw myself pursuing, mathematical economics, wasn’t available for study within The Bahamas neither was my preferred long-term career, actuarial science, which I saw myself working towards. With a degree in mathematical economics, I intend to become a policy maker within
The Bahamas,” she said.
“One who brings forth policies that doesn’t hurt the working-class families and the families that are living paycheck to paycheck. Someone who is vocal about the revamping of the education system within The Bahamas, allowing our children to have options and to understand the vast amount of career opportunities in the world that do not necessarily revolve around being a doctor, lawyer or an accountant.”
Before they even met, cultural ties forged bonds between the new recipients of the Lewis Foundation scholarships. It’s helping them grow accustomed to UCF learning and living, creating a sense of belonging to a campus they have only just begun to explore.
“Having other persons around who you believe understand you better is always comforting,” said Sheddena.
With fewer opportunities to meet new people amidst a pandemic, knowing that fellow Bahamian students are encountering a similar experience makes the adjustment process easier.
“I’m really blessed beyond measure, honestly, to be afforded such an opportunity. All I have to do now is focus on my work,” said Sheddena, a mathematical economics major.
“I wouldn’t be here without the Lewis Foundation. I intend to make the most out of this opportunity.”
The Lewis Foundation offers full scholarships – tuition, textbooks, room and board – to Bahamian students pursuing an undergraduate degree at UCF, which offers more than 220-degree programs. To be eligible for scholarships, students must be a graduate of a Bahamian secondary school, provide proof of acceptance into UCF and demonstrate financial need. New high school graduates and first-generation college students, whose parents did not attend a tertiary institution, are given preference. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.